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H&H Group PLC Weathers the Storm Despite Challenging Climatic and Economic Conditions

Richard Rankin

H&H Group PLC has just released its results for the year to 30th June 2019, which reflect the recent turbulent times across the UK due to adverse economic and weather conditions.

The results show an overall operating profit of £31,000, down £909,000 on last year’s performance.  Net assets have remained strong at £17.2m, however, no final dividend has been recommended this year as the Board look to ensure strong financial governance is in place across the Group.

During a testing year, the Group has seen values and volumes decrease, but on the plus side has continued to invest by acquiring Smeatons Estates Agency into its land and estates portfolio and continued its strategic objective of reducing its reliance on the traditional print sector with the acquisition of Carlisle based Print Graphic in addition to rebranding one of its key businesses.

Commenting on the results Richard Rankin, Chief Executive, said:

“Despite the loss, which we know is as a direct result of the whole of the UK being hit by continued economic uncertainty as well as climatic conditions, the Group overall has performed solidly.

“Within our livestock auctioneering and marketing division, Harrison & Hetherington, we have experienced two sides of the performance coin; good in so far as our people, the service and our market share which are all moving in the right direction, less so, when considering the financial results in comparison to recent years.  We suffered from both a fall in volumes, particularly sheep over the 2018 autumn season and more significantly in lower prices. Both factors were beyond our control and both are mirrored throughout the overall livestock trading industry and our neighbouring marts.

“This has had the expected impact on our top line, which, given the nature of the business, has flowed through to our bottom line. Overall, the results reflect the current turmoil in our industry, with uncertainty affecting both sheep and cattle.

“Positively however, in terms of geographical coverage, this year we have started to conduct pedigree sales at Newark Auction Centre which has expanded our customer base and reputation across the Midlands.

“Fortunately, we are a sizeable organisation, with a diverse range of businesses, a broad skill set, and tremendous teams – and as such, I believe we are in strong position to consolidate our portfolio of services and continue to grow our business.”

“A consistent performer, H&H Insurance Brokers has continued to show growth in real terms, being translated to an increase in bottom line profits.  Expansion into North Wales this year has added an Authorised Representative and an opportunity to create a Welsh brand.  We continue to focus on niche markets for rural insurance services and this has delivered us a competitive advantage that is already showing dividends.   As this area of the business, its brand, customer service and reputation go from strength-to-strength, we continue to look for additional opportunities, both close to home and further afield.

“Our rural land agency business has continued to provide additional support and enhanced service levels to our farming customers, particularly for rural advisory services, where we have seen an increased demand on the environmental and forestry division.

“Following a strategic rebrand from H&H Land and Property to H&H Land & Estates across all offices, we have unified the land, property and estate agency teams into one multi-disciplinary advisory team. Our performance held strong in this division except for the residential sales side, which has also suffered under Brexit.   This is both an industry and national trend, but we have held fast with several of our more southern-based competitors unable to continue trading in this environment.

“H&H Reeds, our print, signage and graphic design arm of the Group, has seen a downturn in sales due to reduction in print volumes, which is being seen throughout the industry. Thanks to the acquisition of Print Graphic at the end of last year, both the signage and graphic design side of the business has seen encouraging growth with more potential to come.  The amalgamation of the signage business onto the company’s Penrith site has also had significant results, with order volumes continually increasing.”

Reflecting on the year, Richard is positive forward-facing:

“As in all areas of the business, and in any business across the UK, there is a nervousness around Brexit and the unknown effects of its outcome, however, we the H&H Group and all of our businesses are here to support our diverse range of customers and the wider rural economy through these uncertain times. Looking to the future, our aim is to further strengthen our main services and to continue to expand our coverage.

“We stand firmly on strong foundations and will, as we have always done, continue to offer the very best service, identify and grasp new opportunities and ensure that we are sustainable, fit for the future and for the needs of the next generation.”

With its heritage in auctioneering, farming and the rural economy, the H&H Group also has businesses encompassing rural property services, insurance and printing. With its head office and main operating centre based at Borderway, Carlisle, the company, which employs over 300 members of staff, operates across the North of England and Scotland.

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